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271st CBCS supplies tactical comm to Northern Strike

  • Published
  • By SSgt. Tony Harp
  • 193rd Special Operations Wing

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. — The 271st Combat Communications Squadron served as the primary communications provider during the joint-multinational exercise, Northern Strike July 22 to August 3 at the Alpena Combat Readiness Center in Michigan.

Fifty Airmen from the 271st CBCS provided communications services to eight geographically-separated nodes, supplying secure and non-secure tactical communications to nine different squadrons and to all four branches of service, said Senior Master Sgt. Chad Kleisath, the 271st CBCS chief of support flight. 

“We provided Non-classified Internet Protocol Router Network, Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, high-frequency radio and voice services utilizing new Theatre Deployable Communications equipment, which includes: the Communications Fly-away Kit, the Small Communications Package, the Expandable Virtual Environment, and the PRC-160 HF antenna system,” said Kleisath.

Kleisath said the goals going into the training were to successfully setup the systems in a deployed environment and sustain real-world customers. With approximately 5,700 participants, this exercise provided an excellent opportunity to meet those goals as the 271st CBCS supplied communications for both the Alpena CRCT and Camp Grayling Range Complex.

“It was a great exercise,” said Kleinsath. “For us to actually have customers, fan out our equipment in different geographical locations, it was really good training.”

The exercise was an excellent opportunity for team collaboration and allowed Airmen to cross-train on the different comm systems, said Master Sgt. Christopher Johanson, the 271st CBCS NCO in charge of Information Security.

“Combat Communications units are traditionally broken up into set teams based upon specific systems or capabilities,” said Johanson. “We have teams that manage radios, data links, servers, security and client computers. Depending upon the scale of the exercise, some teams receive more training than others which provides the potential to identify deficiencies in training and operating procedures. This exercise, with a higher scale, provided many diverse situations and opportunities in which team collaboration was necessary.” 

The 271st CBCS Airmen were able to provide tactical SIPR services to support the base during a real-world, base-wide, SIPR outage. 

“Customers provide initial requirements prior to a mission or exercise,” said Johanson. “We make every attempt to fulfill these requirements while anticipating minor variations to the initial request. There were situations during this exercise in which we were faced with changes in how we provided services, the amount of services provided and new requirements that were never requested. We overcame these challenges through team collaboration, ingenuity and utilizing the vast knowledge of all our personnel.”

“We also had two power production personnel who were attached with the Alpena CRCT Civil Engineers and trained on the BAK-12 and BAK-14, Barrier Arresting Kits,” said Kleisath.

Kleisath said the 271st CBCS looks forward to providing services for next year’s exercise.